Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Vashti

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio


Today's A-Z bible woman is Vashti. Her name means beautiful. She is the ultimate trophy wife. Her story is found in Esther 1:10-12

Esther 1:10-12 (NKJV)
10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him."

I don't think this is about woman who has submission issues. I think this story is about a woman who finally had enough of the abuse, and was tired of being valued simply for her beautiful body.

Now stop and think, what woman would have a problem appearing at a banquet dressed in her most beautiful gowns and her crown. Most women today probably only dressed like that on their wedding day. What the heck was her problem?

Here's what I think was going on she was married to King Ahazuerus who liked to throw drunk parties. About the time he and all the fellow nobles were really head spinningly drunk he would send for the beautiful queen Vashti. There is a word that I think was dropped from the text some where along the line in an attempt to make this story a bit less crass. I think it should read "to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing only her royal crown." Vashti, had been through this humiliation before walking out to be oggled and groped in the drunken orgie like atmosphere. I think she finally had had enough. She knew full well that her decision would likely cost her her life or to be banished.

Ester 1: “Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For the queen’s behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.’ 18 This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media will say to all the king’s officials that they have heard of the behavior of the queen. Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath. 19 If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20 When the king’s decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small.”

I think she was simply way ahead of her time and was one of the first women brave enough to stand up for her human rights and her dignity. Later Esther must stand up to the king for the rights of her people fortunately for her - the king was not drunk and heard her concern.

Sometimes standing up to abuse and a system that is corrupt costs us everything we have spent our lives working to achieve. Perhaps it somehow paves the way for others and little by little changes are made.  In that moment Vashti's life changed forever. Every dream she had ever had vanished in that instant. So you don't think I'm completely out to lunch on this one. The Reformation Study bible has this to say. "Reasons for Vashti’s disobedience are not given in the Hebrew text, though early Jewish interpreters explained that she was commanded to appear naked, wearing only her crown, or that she had some disfigurement. "

I suppose you could say ...Look how far we have come - look at the freedoms and rights that women enjoy in our society. But then I find statistics like what follows and I am saddened. 

Lets just look at sex trafficking: The oppression of women continues in full force to this day.

"Sex trafficking is 90% women and girls.
Over 50,000 women are trafficked into the United States every year.
Asian women are sold to North American brothels for $16,000 each.
2 million children are forced into prostitution every year. Half of them live in Asia."

Human Trafficking of U.S. citizens within the U.S.:

 244,000 – Number of American children and youth estimated to be at risk of child sexual exploitation, including commercial sexual exploitation, in 2000.

o Source: Estes, Richard J. and Neil A. Weiner. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work: 2001. Study funded by the Department of Justice.

 38,600 – Estimated number of an approximate 1.6 million runaway/thrownaway youth at risk of sexual endangerment or exploitation in 1999.

o Source: U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Runaway/Thrownaway Children: National Estimates and Characteristics. NISMART Series: 2002.

 12-14 – Average age of entry into prostitution
o Source: Estes, Richard J. and Neil A. Weiner. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in

the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work: 2001."

Here's another I found:

"Beauty Standards:

42% of American girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner. 80% of 13 year olds have attempted to lose weight. Fast forward to older women, and 2.8 million American women have had botox injections, almost 400,000 have had breast augmentation surgery, 456, 828 have had liposuction. In 1997, 2 million cosmetic surgeries were performed, while in 2007, 11.7 million cosmetic surgeries were performed. 91% of these surgeries were performed on women. Women in the US feel the need to have their bodies cut, reshaped and mutilated in order to conform to prevailing standards of beauty. Women are oppressed by the onslaught of media and advertising that objectifies their bodies.

Sex, Domestic Violence and Rape:
In terms of the global sex trade, an estimated 50,000 women are trafficked into the US each year. The USA is both a destination country for trafficking, as well as a source country. This means that American women ARE kidnapped, or otherwise coerced into the sex trafficking industry. Women are often lured into the sex trade under false pretenses; being hired as waitresses or maids and then forced into prostitution. This is not just a problem for developing countries. It is here, on our own soil.

In the US, 23 women a week are killed by intimates. This has held steady for more than a decade. 74% of women murdered from instances of domestic violence were murdered after the woman left the relationship, filed for divorce or got a restraining order. Our government has failed to protect women from abusive partners, and band-aid solutions like restraining orders are proven to be, ultimately, ineffective. Until we start taking domestic violence seriously on a legislative level, this percentage will stay about the same. The only country with more women known to have been killed by domestic violence than the US is Russia.

up to 700,000 rapes occur in the USA each year. 18% of American women have survived a rape or attempted rape. In 2001 39% of rapes were reported to the police. 81% of rape victims are white, 18% are black. Fortunately, marital rape is a criminal offense in the USA."
~ Published in Feminism Politics on March 6, 201


So what do you do? Do you sit by quietly while all around you people are suffering? Do we just huddle in our churches and agree that the world is going to hell in a handbag and wait for the rapture?  Or do we look for ways to make a difference in our world?

I will leave you to ponder Isaiah 58 and consider how you are doing on God's kind of fasting.

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.

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